Symphony No. V, “Elements,” is my attempt to describe the three elements Sun, Rain and Wind with music. It was my goal to literally submerse the listener in musically graphic situations so much so that after listening to the respective movements they would emotionally “feel” like they had been physically touched by each. I wanted to musically present sunrises as well as sunburn the audience with intense heat, then drench and heal them with rain, and finally blow them back against their seats with the power and excitement of wind. Each movement can stand alone. Applause is welcomed after each movement even if the entire symphony is being performed. There is a revisit of some of the thematic materials from both “Sun” and “Rain” in the finale “Wind.” Some of the settings in “Wind” depict hot winds and blowing rain to name just a couple. There is also an interesting graphic representation in notes in the score. Be sure and ask to see those two pages in the “Wind” score. I do believe I achieved what I set out to do. This is also my most demanding work for Wind Ensemble in both technique as well as instrumentation.
The orchestration is tailored for using a B-flat Contrabass Clarinet OR E-flat Contra Alto Clarinet in addition to Contrabassoon. It also requires a professional level pianist. None of those instruments are optional, they are all absolutely required. The following program notes will go into detail regarding each movement’s focus. Audiences are encouraged to read the program notes for each movement prior to listening as a way of actively participating with the music.
Princeton New Jersey, Todd Nichols, Conductor In Memory of Patricia Page Van Abs
Premiers June 9, 2018 by the Eastern Wind Symphony,
Todd Nichols Conducting, Princeton University, New Jersey.
Premiers July, 2018, The Musashino Academia,
Ray E. Cramer Conducting, Tokyo, Japan.
Performance October 23, 2018 by the University of North Texas Symphonic Band,
Dennis Fisher Conducting, Denton, Texas.
I. Sun in C
Before composing “Sun” I researched all the science I could concerning the sun's age, projected life span, atomic makeup, flares, and other interesting facts. Formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago and with approximately that many years left, the sun is a radioactive middle aged ball of hot plasma comprised of 73% hydrogen and 25% helium. Once the sun's hydrogen fusion core diminishes to a critical level, the sun will go from being a classified G-type star referred to as a yellow dwarf to being a Red Giant and will render Earth uninhabitable roughly 5 billion years from now.
The opening of “Sun” actively describes the dynamo process of constant motion in and on the sun. Broken motifs are stated, changed, repeated and grow with strength of numbers and dynamics for 59 quickly paced measures ending in the first sunrise witnessed by earth represented by a huge open fifth C chord which is neither major or minor as there are no 3rds. In my mind, I did not see the sun as good or evil – just existing – thus no major or minor overtones. The middle section of “Sun” depicts the sun more as a sentient being with the music showing the loneliness of floating in space for billions of years; the monotony and perhaps the unavoidable onset of insanity and depression such existence would impose on a human as a soulless planet. The sun is then musically devoured by the chemical reactions and builds back up into another huge chord, but this chord is a C Major chord, representing the joy of life that the Earth enjoys, for without the sun, life on earth would not exist. After that chord the music captures the magnificent power of the sun with huge bold chords surrounded by an arsenal of 32nd notes in the woodwinds and keyboards representing the artificial life of the sun and is meant to sound like the artificial synthesized music sounds and textures of the late 1980- 1990's electronic instruments.
The miracle of the sun ends the work with another, final massive C Major chord.
*As a side note, when I was actively composing and trying to create the feel of oppressive heat, I would always picture in my mind the desert scenes from “Lawrence of Arabia.” I always felt like that movie captured the power of the unrelenting sun and heat better than any other motion picture.*
RECORDINGS WILL BE POSTED AFTER THE PREMIER
SYMPHONY NO. V - ELEMENTS
Each Movement CAN stand alone and be performed seperately as well as all at once.
You may purchase individual movements or the entire symphony by Fall, 2018
II. RAIN in Dflat
The opening of the second movement is my attempt at rain. Literally. The orchestration has the woodwinds and sparse melodic percussion playing notes randomly, both in rhythm and pitch, representing individual rain drops. Solo instruments are added to the random rain and over the course of 37 measures the entire wind ensemble is added. In measure 38, the raindrops become no longer random, but musically part of each chord in passing. The whole opening section represents a light, random rain.
The middle section of “Rain” features 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon and piano. It is a representation of the melancholy that comes with rain. The music then builds into a huge downpour, represented by the movement’s main theme. It is big and full, but every once in a while, one measure drops down considerably in both volume and personnel which represents the contrast between looking out at a downpour or staring at individual rain drops on the ground or in your hand.
The middle main theme winds down, dropping down in orchestration to a “twinkling” magical piano and melodic percussion section. This represents the miracle of life water gives to all living things on Earth, without which, life would not survive. This section then grows into a recap of the main theme which gradually reduces to a light, slumber-inviting drizzle ending the movement.
*The “randomness” of raindrops is written out to insure eveb distribution of the “drops” without leaving that distribution to chance by simply providing the written instruction “play randomly.”*
III. WIND in Eflat
Starting with a lone Bassoon 1 held note, Mother Nature spins a small breeze with the flutes and clarinets. The technical runs which are used throughout the entire movement have built-in motion with up and down movements, many of which happen in each small statement in each instrument. The first wind blows itself out in measure 31 with a crescendo and flourish of notes. In measure 32 the wind starts again with a more devious nature. This wind also winds down but instead of stopping completely, is lightly formed into a magical breeze, like that on a beautiful, deserted island or the winds that Peter Pan soars upon.
Measures 90 to 124 represents such a wind beginning with, again, the magic “twinkling” of melodic percussion. Jazzy woodwinds are added to the “twinkling” magic with fluid solos in the Alto Saxophone, B-flat Clarinet 1 and French Horn, representing a perfect breeze playing across bare flesh. This is the first “revisit” of a theme from a previous moment but only in orchestration here, not thematically.
Measure 125, sub-headed “Storm Brewing,” is exactly that. It starts out small, but takes on immense power which abruptly stops. A percussion feature section takes over with driving rhythms and solos. The rest of the wind ensemble is added gradually and quickly grows into a huge tornado which just as quickly disappears. At first it feels like we have escaped the full force of wind but then it hits with hurricane force music which drives relentlessly to the end. There is a recap of the main thematic material of “Sun” woven into the wind theme. The
tornado is not only represented in the audio of this movement, but visually in the score as well.